Sweden is headed to its first Olympic gold medal final since 2006 thanks to Friday’s 2-1 win over Finland at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
In a methodical, defensive affair, the Swedes received goals from Loui Eriksson and Erik Karlsson — Karlsson’s now tied with Phil Kessel for the tournament scoring lead — while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win.
The goals came after Finland opened the scoring 6:17 into the second period, when Olli Jokinen squeaked one past Lundqvist from a bad angle.
“I think it was a chess match more than the intense battle we all expected,” Sweden’s Daniel Alfredsson told CBC’s Elliotte Friedman following the game.
In terms of atmosphere, the game had an odd feel. Finland defeated the host Russians to get into the semifinal matchup, and that may have contributed to a quiet, less-than-capacity crowd at the Bolshoy. That said, the Finns and Swedes still engaged in a feisty affair born from geography and a long history of high-stakes international competition (Sweden bested Finland for gold at the ’06 games in Turin.)
Finland had trouble utilizing its speed throughout Friday’s game and will no doubt rue its missed opportunities, especially on the power play. The Finns went 0-for-5 on the day, which was a tournament-long issue — they only scored three power play goals in Sochi, two coming in a tournament-opening 8-4 rout over Austria. The Finns will likely also wonder what life would’ve been like with No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask in goal; he fell ill prior to the game and was replaced by Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 23 of 25 shots.
As for Sweden, it continued the theme of finding ways to win.
Though the team hasn’t been dominant in any of its victories — the 5-0 win over Slovenia in the quarters was deceiving, as the Sweden only led 1-0 going into the third — it has continually gotten the job done and remains the only undefeated Olympic squad to have won all its games in regulation.
Sweden is also now 11-1 in its last 12 Olympic games, dating back to its gold medal-winning performance in ’06.